Monday, 23 December 2013

What does Christmas mean to you?


When someone mentions the word 'Christmas' to you, what is the first word which pops into your head. Do you think of the food, the alcohol, the music and singing? Do you think of the fashion, cuddling up in Christmas jumpers and woolly hats? Do you think of all the millions of TV specials and films? Or do you think of Santa Claus or even the baby Jesus, who somehow seems to have been buried under all the consumer paraphernalia in this celebratory season?

To me, the most important thing at this time of year is family. And that's immediately where my thoughts turn in this festive period. This is a time, sometimes the only time in the year, when we are actually altogether and make the effort to spend some proper time with each other (which should probably happen a little more frequently but it's better than nothing right?!) We simply hang out, laughing, arguing, eating, drinking and generally having fun. We revert to our childhood selves and (ultra competitively) play board games and watch films. We go on walks, catch up on each other's lives and spend some quality time together.

Christmas can be stressful yet I don't think it should be. That's not the point. People rush around the shops, trying to find that perfect gift and stocking up on enough food to feed a small country. But I believe everyone should relax, stop a minute and just appreciate what is in front of them. Be thankful. If you are in the warm and dry, opening gifts, absolutely stuffed and surrounded by one or more loved ones, you are so much luckier than the majority of people on this earth. So just have fun and try not to kill each other in the process.


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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mojo


I'll be honest, it was the cast that really attracted me to go to see this play. I knew absolutely nothing about the play itself. And much as I would love to say I went to enhance my literary education, I really can't. Because when a cast is made up of Ben Whishaw, Colin Morgan, Brendan Coyle, Daniel Mays, Rupert Grint and Tom Rhys Harries, there's no way you can say no.

But ignoring that side of things for a moment, the play itself was absolutely fantastic. Hugely funny and gripping, it was an interesting insight into human character. Each character represented another part of society that you can find all around you, even if you don't work in a bar and the outcome was just so so funny.

Of course, a lot of this was down to the actors themselves. Daniel Mays' comic timing was spot on throughout and him and Rupert Grint had some great moments where they just bounced off each other. Grint was ok and played a character who was very similar to the Ron Weasley of the first couple of films, following the much brighter Potts (Mays) like a slightly lost puppy dog. Brendan Coyle on the other hand, couldn't be playing someone more different to his Bates from Downton Abbey. Keeping all the youngsters in order, with the slightest raise of tone, he showed his immense acting ability. Ben Whishaw was a scarily unpredictable character, who played out the sudden mood swings to perfection, sparring with Colin Morgan's character in a truly hilarious but frightening way where you weren't sure what was going to happen next. The pair of them acted beyond their years right to the sudden climax at the end. Morgan's final few moments on stage is one of the most heartbreaking and expertly acted scenes I have ever seen in theatre. And then finally, Tom Rhys Harries is a relative newcomer who, in my opinion, was one of the most impressive simply for his ability to hang upside down for around 20 minutes without passing out. No mean feat.

 As I have already said and can't stop saying, this play was just excellent. Excellent cast who acted excellently in an excellently written play...I think that just about sums it up. You have to go and see it. That is all.


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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I always say that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my favourite Roald Dahl book. Which is a cliché in itself and I am not sure how entirely true it is. It has been a very long time since I have read it, although the fact that my copy is extremely dog eared indicates that I may have read it a lot as a child. But since then, the plot of the original story, has been polluted by two very contrasting films and now this - the brand new musical.

Produced by the ever brilliant Sam Mendes, everyone was expecting a bit of a showstopper and I was not disappointed. I have to say it is a beautiful musical. That's the only way I can describe it. The sets are truly something to behold. Each room that they go into is absolutely stunning with huge scenery, daring props (that are very reliant on technology it appeared) and wonderful costumes that all made it a marvel for the eyes. It was totally gorgeous. The detail, the brightness, the lights...it was all exactly right. No other musical has been quite that big.

Another way that this musical is bigger than any other than I have seen, was by the pure breadth of what was included within it. You couldn't say that it fit one particular style because everything was there - there was rapping, electro music, street dancing, ballet, tap, funny bits, sad bits, slow bits, action filled bits...what a complete and utter rollercoaster. In the same way that the children were on a massive journey so were we and it really did keep you gripped until the end.

Talking of the children, having a cast where the majority of the leads are below 12, is always going to be a massive risk. But these kids were great. Talented, professional and true to the original characters, while at the same time, bringing their own bit of flair to each one. They were all kept dutifully in hand by a host of awesome supporting adults, with Willie Wonka at the helm, played by Douglas Hodge. His wonderfully whacky portrayal was a little more subdued than either of the films' versions, making him much more lovable, as I always felt like he should be. He played him with casual skill, making it look effortless as he bounced off the children and drew you into the world.

This was a very good portrayal that you had enthralled in a different world for a few hours...there was so much going on you didn't quite know where to look. However, I was wondering how suitable it actually was for children, despite the fact it is a children's book and has always meant to be for children. And there were a lot in the audience. But would they actually be able to keep up? Would they understand some of the events going on? And what's more, would they hear the odd swear word that crept into a couple of the songs. But for me personally, I loved the whole exciting production. And as I was the one who grew up with this book constantly on my bedside table, that is how it should be.

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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Annie

At the beginning of my blog, in my very first post, I made a number of declarations about what I wanted to include here - http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/hellooooo.html - and one of those bullet points I haven't even touched on once in the whole year and a half I have been writing for you. So to fill the little creative gap, here is a little short story for you that I scribbled a few days ago. Enjoy.

My best friend
 
You know how they all say that you have a devil sitting on your left shoulder while an angel perches on your right...and you should attempt to ignore that little thing speaking into your left ear at all costs? Well, they're all wrong. None of you know anything. Who knows what rubbish you have been paying attention to.
 
I was lucky enough to be put right very quickly. Because in my left ear, I hear only one voice. That of my best friend, Annie King. She's just perfect, everything that I could ever dream of being: kind, generous, wise and intelligent, creative and determined. And absolutely beautiful - slim with long brown hair that shimmers down her back. Never a horrid word is uttered from her perfect red lips and her pearly white teeth are always on show as she beams at everyone around her. She makes everyone feel good simply by saying hello to them. By turning those startling green eyes on you, you feel...just great. And then she smiles and you soar up to become the luckiest person in the world.
 
Not that you could be. Because, actually, I am the luckiest person in the world.
 
She is my best friend and I can talk to her whenever I want. And she talks to me, whenever I need her. Some would call her bossy. I think she's helpful.
 
She always reminds me when I have forgotten to do something. Like that time I completely forgot about this essay I had to write.
'You're not allowed any dinner until you get it done!' she told me firmly.
Unfortunately it took me two days so I missed a few more meals than just that one, but it worked. I got it done. In fact, I was given an A for it. It was all down to her.
 
And she was always there to motivate me too. When I was training for the half marathon, she was completely in charge of my diet, ensuring that I got that perfect balance. For weeks my food was restricted and my training was upped. But it worked. I came third. It was all down to her.
 
We did some work experience together recently and were totally rushed off our feet. But we dragged each other through it.
'Here have some chewing gum. And drink lots of water. You'll forget about it soon.'
She was right. As normal.
 
It was really hard that week actually. So much to do, so little time, So, at the end of the month, we decided to let our hair down a bit.
'Let's celebrate' suggested Annie 'I haven't been dancing for ages.'
I slipped on a dress and Annie beamed sincerely at me, forcing me to do a shy twirl.
'You look gorgeous' she enthused.
I didn't. It hung lifelessly down my body, attempting to cling to my pathetically small curves. Annie looked amazing. As always.
 
We downed shots. Then some drinks. Then some more shots. The wooziness had been in my head before we'd even started so I knew I wasn't going to last the whole night. This time I was right.
 
We'd walked about half a mile to the club. Easy. But as we reached the bouncers at the entrance, I let myself down. My head smashed on to the hard tarmac and my legs began to shiver uncontrollably as my breathing became fast and shallow. In the distance I heard several yells.
'How much has she had to drink?' A crowd was forming around me.
'Basically nothing. She was fine.'
'Did she eat anything?'
I didn't catch the answer to that one. I looked to my left and let out a small sigh of relief.
Annie smiled down at me and stroked my hair.
'You're going to be just fine.'
 
I know I was. As long as she was there. And she was always there. She was always right.
 
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